On Old Nightmares, Winter Sleep, and Repairs

We are being transformed, preparing ourselves for springtime.



Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Five to six hours of sleep — that’s not something to brag about. That was the average number of hours of sleep I used to get when I was living in the Philippines, traveling, and adjusting to my first few months here in Hanoi.

Realistic and disturbing

I recall having recurring nightmares of a man standing over my bed, strangling my delicate neck.

There was a creepy-looking lady standing by the gate of our house, watching my every move like a hunter waiting for its prey.

There were episodes of chasing, running away, and escaping from unidentified, now forgotten, people. These dreams paralyzed me, and later, woke me up, frightened of the dark.

I recall wanting to ask for help from my mother sleeping next to my bedroom. I was almost awake, yet, my body was incapable of any movement.

The only thing to do was wait for the spell of the nightmare to wear off.

A change in season

Since my life started to ‘normalize’ here in Hanoi, and since the weather changed from autumn to winter, my sleep quality had changed. Drastically.

Now I sleep for eight to nine hours — that’s additional 3 hours. This is big. I’m close to my 40s. It has been scientifically proven that humans get older, we need less sleep, yet, I am sleeping longer.

Chunky socks. Photo by the author.

Low temperature

According to Matt Walker, PhD., author of Why We Sleep, sleeping in a cold bedroom is one of the methods to doze off faster.

Other ways are establishing the same waking and sleeping time daily, even during weekends, going to bed only when sleepy, and never lying awake in bed for a long period of time.

I’ve always been a light sleeper, but as winter came around, I noticed I can easily take naps — long naps that last 1 or 2 hours — as long as I set up my nest nicely.

It has to be dark, I have to be bundled up under my thick blanket. I need a good book and warm clothes, too.

Like I said in my last post about chores, I am not asking for spring or summer to come early. Surprisingly, I am quite enjoying the cold these days.

A dreamy photo of the rice fields in Sa Pa, Vietnam. Photo by the author.

Under maintenance

Winter sleeps are the best.

This is what Katherine May, author of Wintering has to say about sleep during winter:

“In winter, we are invited into a particular mode of sleep: not a regimented eight hours, but a slow, ambulatory process in which waking thoughts merge with dreams and space is made in the blackest hours to repair the fragmented narratives of our days.”

Walker says, “Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.”

I with the rest of the world sheltered under a dimly lit period am going through a process of mending.

Whatever season you are in, wherever you are, we are under the same life cycle of winter, coinciding with the actual season here in Hanoi. We are being transformed, preparing ourselves for springtime.

Maybe that’s why each morning before I step into the world of the awake, I never want sleep to end.

Read my post here to know how I got here in Hanoi and what I am doing here now.

Here’s my latest post about staying in, doing chores, and things we avoid but secretly enjoy doing.

Odyssa is a teacher based in Hanoi, Vietnam. She is the author of Like A New Sun Rising: A Collection of Poems on Love and From Where I Stand: A Collection of Poems on Travel.

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